Small investors offer hope for Japan market gloom

Fri Oct 31, 2008 4:32am EDT
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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Stocks in Japan fell to their lowest in decades this week, but seasoned punter Heiichiro Kase is far from discouraged.

He's lost some money, but the 74-year-old retiree is still buying shares, hoping to make more money to add to his pension income.

"It's time to buy. Stocks are cheap now," said Kase. "I've actually bought some shares recently. I did pretty well two days ago, though I lost money today."

Kase was one of over 300 mostly elderly men at an investment seminar held just blocks from the Tokyo Stock Exchange this week, a turnout that shows many retail investors are not about to give up on the market any time soon.

Clutching brochures and giveaways from brokerages, the crowd listened intently as guest speakers spoke about Japanese blue chips, covered warrants and other promising picks that could help them weather the market storm.

"I just bought stocks today," said Yukihisa Koshikawa, 69, hurrying back into the packed room after a brief break. "When everyone is pessimistic about the market, it's a sign to buy."

Seasoned small investors are not the only ones buying stocks, online brokerages say, offering hope for the Tokyo market where the main stock average fell to a 26-year low on Tuesday.

Call centers have been swamped with queries from first-time investors on how to open accounts, while those holding never-used accounts have called up to retrieve forgotten passwords.

"We're seeing a rise in beginners, people who have never invested in stocks before," said Tachiki Jibu, spokesman for Matsui Securities Co.   Continued...

<p>People look at an electronic board displaying share prices at a securities company in Tokyo October 30, 2008. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao(JAPAN)</p>